Information to transformation
What is information for
I read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos, and otherwise consume a lot of information. But for the longest time, I forgot to ask myself a simple question: what is information for?
Imagine you’re hunter-gatherer, with only limited language. A fellow grunting tribe member returns to the camp and as he’s warming by the fire, you notice he’s breathing heavily. He looks at you and grunts: ‘Snake. Big tree. Careful.‘
That’s the purpose of information in a nutshell: survival.
It is the ability to distinguish between a snake and a lake, so that you can avoid danger. The ability to communicate via a medium conveying information has enabled us to live in the world we live in today.
Yet, we seem to have forgotten the purpose of information.
We read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos,… but how often do we translate all that wealth of information into action? How often do we use all the helpful information to actually help ourselves in our lives?
Not very often, I would say. The question is: why?
I’ve found a few reasons that hinder me from applying information.
Why we fail to apply information
1. Too abstract
Even the best quotes and thoughts you come across are useless if they’re too abstract. It would probably take about 10 min to figure out how to meaningfully apply a quote to one’s life. But who stops scrolling on social media to think deeply about a quote for 10 minutes?
2. Too unfamiliar and uncomfortable
If Seth Godin says you should blog every day to bolster your creativity, will you do it? Chances are that you won’t because that’s not what you do. It’s unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Way easier to just go back to memes.
3. Too familiar
You’ve heard a term so many times that it becomes nothing, an empty phrase. Made the best use of my opportunities, … The key to success is learning… You have to go out of your comfort zone…
There’s deep meaning in all these platitudes, but you might not discover it if you mentally skip them because you’ve heard them all before.
4. No idea incubation
There are 4 stages of creativity:
Preparation — gathering of information
Incubation — letting your brain munch on it
Illumination — a-ha! in the shower
Verification — does it work?
Ideas need a certain time to be processed in our subconscious and conscious mind, to be ready for use.
But how will you get to stage 4 if instead of munching on the chunk of information you read another 100 tweets? The diamond of insight vanishes in the desert of noise.
How have I applied this information?
After realizing this, I’ve made some changes to how I process information.
A stop to non-fiction podcasts / interviews / books / articles
I don’t consume new stuff unless I’m prepared to think about it and apply it. I heard somewhere that you should think about a book as long as you spent reading it. Neat idea.
What if I applied this to any resource? 30 min on Youtube → 30 min of thinking about the material with pen & paper, identifying the next actions that would help me make progress.
Long walks to incubate ideas
I’ve found that 1–2 hours outside, prefferably in the woods, is way better for creativity and true productivity (doing what matters, not what makes you busy) than spending 10 hours at a computer browsing email or tweets or whatever. The subconscious is a powerful machine for making helpful connections, but it needs time and space.
Reviewing past notes & highlights
I’ve been reviewing my own notes and Kindle highlights from the past to reapply this thinking to them and recharge the ideas within to be useful once again.
The purpose of information is to help you help yourself in life in some way — make you happier, wealthier, or healthier. But you have to apply it! Otherwise you’re wasting your own energy.
So what are you going to do with this information?